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James Smith

Building a better future out of code

Party On

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Currently, I’m intending to stand as an Independent candidate. I believe that candidates should be a lot more independent, and that parties, while useful for some things, tend to wield far too much power.

However, we find ourselves in a political climate that doesn’t reward the independent, and doesn’t allow lone voices through. Also, there are some built-in biases in the system against the independent candidate.

There has been an open question for a while on the OpenPolitics Manifesto over whether it should form a party. Some think we should, some not. I personally fall on the side that says that forming a party is a good thing, if only for short-term tactical reasons. It would be a party designed to make itself unnecessary by reforming the democratic system. The alternative view is that we would be better as a loose collection of independents.

This post is a long-form contribution to that debate, really.

In my view, the disadvantages of remaining independents mainly come down to brand awareness. When you have to get home a very simple strong message to as many people as possible, being able to present that in a unified way that people will come across in lots of places is a big advantage. Nuanced messages about being an independent but having a shared manifesto will get lost.

Also, the fact that parties get to have their party name, logo, and tagline on the ballot paper is a massive advantage to them over independents, who get none of that.

Anyway, a thought occurred to me. We want to remain a decentralised network of contributors, but capitalise on shared recognition and branding. How can we be a party without being a party? What if we register a party with the Electoral Commission, but avoid the use of the word “Party” like hell?

Instead, how about the OpenPolitics Network?

That way we get the best of both, I think. Anyone could stand as a candidate for the network as long as they are standing on the manifesto, but there’s no central party control telling them what to do, or even looking like it does. Each candidate is free to run their campaign however they want; after all, they’re basically independents.

Unfortunately, the rules state that parties do have to have some centralised aspects - a leader, and a couple of other posts, but these can be elected from the pool of contributors, and while they may technically exist, we can avoid using them in the usual way.

I think this might be a way to gain the advantages of party recognition without having to conform to the existing views of parties.

Oh, and there is no registered party in the UK at the moment that uses the word “network”, so I think that’s a good omen.


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